Lodz Ghetto

Director: Alan Adelson, Kathryn Taverna
Screenwriters: Alan Adelson

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


Lodz Ghetto is an existential horror movie more terrifying than any fiction. It is a baleful chronicle about a people on the brink of annihilation with no options. Of the almost quarter-million Jews herded by the Germans into a slum within the Polish city of Lodz, barely 800 survived the war. Cordoned off by barbed wire from the rest of the city and isolated from the world, the starving community was led by “the Eldest of the Jews,” Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski, one of the most pathetic figures of modern history. The mixed exhortations and promises of salvation from the Nazi-appointed martinet drove the Jews into virtual slavery making uniforms and ammunition for the Germans. In his increasingly desperate attempts to satisfy the Germans, Rumkowski first encouraged his fellow Jews to volunteer for relocation, and ultimately demanded that all children under ten be surrendered for deportation, The ghetto, which was also used by the Nazi as a transit station for Eastern European Jews, was gradually emptied.

The painful text of Lodz Ghetto was compiled by co-director Alan Edelson from eyewitness accounts of the atrocity and is spoken by a variety of voices, including Jerzy Kosinski as Rumkowski. The implacable images were edited by co-director Kathy Taverna from recently discovered full-color slides taken by an anonymous German, black-and-white photographs surreptitiously shot inside the ghetto, movie footage of the ghetto made by the Nazis, and film of present-day Lodz including the ghetto as it appears today. The unsentimental accomplishment of Lodz Ghetto is not just that it scrupulously recreates a terrible past, but also that it recognizes how profoundly that past haunts the present. As the film puts it, “Listen, and believe this, even though it happened her. Even though it seems so old, so distant, and so foreign.”

— Larry Kardish

Screening Details

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